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Referendum on public power may not make 2022 ballot

January 13, 2022 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A referendum to change Maine’s primary utility company into a quasi-public agency is potentially tabled until 2023 because organizers indicated they may not have the necessary signatures before the deadline to make the November ballot.

The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for groups to gather signatures from registered Maine voters. They would need to submit more than 63,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office by the Jan. 31 deadline to put the question on the ballot, the Bangor Daily News reported on Thursday.

The ballot question would ask voters if they wanted lawmakers to transform Central Maine Power into a quasi-public agency. The state would borrow billions of dollars to buy CMP and Versant Power’s infrastructure and put the system in control of an elected board.

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A delay could sap momentum from a recent vote to halt a proposed $1 billion Central Maine Power electric line, the newspaper reported.

Lawmakers leading the effort on the referendum declined to comment on whether they’ve garnered enough signatures to make it onto the 2022 ballot, the newspaper reported.

A Lewiston city clerk Kathy Montejo said so far she has only received about 200 signatures from Our Power, the group organizing the campaign.

Rep. Seth Berry, a Democrat who has championed the campaign, told the newspaper there were “great arguments” for putting the referendum on the ballot in either 2022 or 2023.